Bonhomme Richard ARG and 31st MEU Strengthen Bilateral Partnership With Japan 
Story by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Michael Russell and Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Chelsea Mandello Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs 
OKINAWA, Japan – Members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) embarked aboard forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) to train alongside Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Aug 22.

 The training will include theater security cooperation, amphibious operations,  humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises.

 “The Japanese military is impressed with our Marine and Navy amphibious operations,” said Maj. Foster Fergusson, executive officer for Combat Logistic Battalion 31 (CLB-31).

 This is the first time soldiers from the JGSDF have embedded with Marines from the 31st MEU for the duration of amphibious integration training (AIT) and certification exercise (CERTEX). 

 AIT provides the initial opportunity for the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to conduct operational maneuvering from sea to shore before supporting multilateral exercises, contingency operations, or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

 CERTEX is an evaluated event that determines if the Bonhomme Richard ARG and 31st MEU are capable of conducting certain missions like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations or non-combatant evacuation operations.

 “One of our main missions is amphibious operations and it’s very important for us to practice our capabilities,” said 1st Lt. Maritza Anderson, communications officer for the combat logistics battalion. “These training evolutions prepare us so we can respond quickly.”

 The U.S. Navy continually strives to build and strengthen partnerships with U.S. allies. Joint exercises demonstrate enhanced amphibious capability of American and Japanese forces and promote interoperability through maritime security operations.

 “These evolutions demonstrate our ability to come together bilaterally and execute ship-to shore movement,” said Fergusson.

 Ships in the Bonhomme Richard ARG are no strangers to working with the JGSDF. After a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan March 11 2011, USS Tortuga made history by lifting 273 Japan Ground Self Defense Force troops and 93 vehicles for delivery to Onimato, Japan and immediately began flying humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies ashore. It was the first time the JGSDF embarked a U.S. Navy ship.

 Bonhomme Richard ARG is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Operation and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, who is headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.

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